Perched on a balcony, well, those of you who have never lived in the Big Apple might call it a fire escape, outside a fifth floor walk up on Christopher Street, I had the perfect vantage point to witness the annual spectacle of the New York Gay Parade, literally a half a block from location of the historic Stonewall Bar where our gay ancestors first rebelled in 1969 and gave birth to the modern gay rights movement.
I witnessed my first N.Y. Pride shortly after landing my initial post-college job and happily bidding Ohio adieu in 1984. 27 years later, in a post 9/11, post “birthers-gate,” post Royal Wedding, post and most joyfully, a post- Bush presidency world, the parade looked very different to me this year at first, before I quickly realized it was not really the parade had changed as much as how the world has changed those of us seeing it.
Since it is the only world we have, summoning the courage to be proud of not only what you do, but the person you are when doing it, makes the world a better place, one webmaster at a time.
This pageant on wheels started this year as it always has, with the Dykes on Bikes wielding their choppers, only this time, most of the dames kept their shirts on. Rather quickly I noticed that after a familiar start, what followed was not living diorama of my memory lane, the new reality of our lives and times in which we live. Gone was the endless string of floats from the bars and the clubs, the pantheon of porn studio barges was likewise no where to be seen — and they had not been replaced with Internet companies either.
It is certainly not that gay men have lost their love of party boys and what we can do with them, or that the weather had taken a autumnal freeze forcing everyone into something more then the tightest, low-rise, mesh front, push-up bum shorts they could find. Rather it was a sign that just maybe, as a community, our focus is expanding to include the things out of the bedroom that shape the rest of modern lives.
Of course PFLAG (Parents & Friends of Gays and Lesbians) had their contingent as well as dozen plus country’s marching proudly with their native sons and daughters. That was followed by not the glossy marquee names and big bucks companies, but the smaller, 5-10 person groups who galvanize our community with the support services we need to survive like HIV out reach, food banks, teen support hotlines and anti-harassment groups.
Then there were the even smaller groups, many of which I had never heard of before, that right along with the firefighters and policemen, were the real stars of the group and the ones who need a parade to feel proud: those who lives finds themselves at least partly disenfranchised from their sexuality every day but today.
The thunderous applause for the hometown heroes was not limited to the those that helped defend and rebuild New York after 9/11: it included some of the most unlikely suspects: the tiny groups of two of three representing the gay people who work for some of the city’s, and in some cases, the country’s and the world’s, largest fortune 500 companies.
Like their counterparts on from city services, these are the people who might not be “totally hiding” their sexuality at work, but it is at best something never brought into the open either.
Their “partner” is never identified by a gender specific pronoun, that vacation picture of the two of them will never be placed proudly on their office desk for all visitors and co-workers to see and they likely will attending the company’s annual dinner with the one they love.
These are the folks who feel compelled to spend at least eight hours of each and every day fearful to share who they really are — yet today, this one day of the year, they summon the courage and conviction to march from the Avenue of the Americas and 53rd Street, right down Fifth and all the way back to our ground zero, the Village, for all the world to see.
That is what pride is all about. That is who this parade is for.
While that may put things in perspective for you, it might not draw the immediate parallel to your life: after all you are not gay, but for all of us who make our living in the adult entertainment industry, the last time someone on a airplane asked why you were headed to Phoenix or next the blank on a credit card application when they asked for your profession, what did you say?
I know, I know…you are sure your grandmother, your college roommate, your potential new landlord or your neighbor would never understand. What about the trepidation on what to do when you apply for a mortgage and the bank needs to verify your employment?
You are fearful they would immediately jump to their own nefarious conclusions based on their limited, “Boogie Nights” mentality and unfairly paint you with a brush of the banal, never seeing beyond that.
Welcome to our world folks …it is not quite the foreign land you thought it was after all, now is it?
But since it is the only world we have, summoning the courage to be proud of not only what you do, but the person you are when doing it, makes the world a better place, one webmaster at a time.